·21 September 2023
·21 September 2023
Current Time 0:00
If it wasn't already clear the impact that Lionel Messi has had at Inter Miami and on their surge in popularity, then the fans' reaction to his injury against Toronto on Wednesday certainly did the job. The Argentine returned to the side's lineup against the Canadian team after missing Miami's previous two matches. It wasn't the hero's homecoming that both Messi and the fans in attendance were hoping for, though, and he was substituted in the 39th minute after an injury rendered him unable to continue.
After struggling with what appeared to be a leg issue, the superstar was taken off shortly before half-time and the crowd's reaction was quite stunning. Of course, Messi's arrival at Inter Miami has seen the club's stock and profile within the footballing world skyrocket and more fans are paying to watch the side than ever before. If anyone was under any illusions that a large portion of the audience was there for any reason other than to see the former Barcelona man play, then they won't be anymore as the fans proved with their actions after he went off injured.
After Messi was forced off injured in the first half, footage of fans inside the arena has emerged online and it's a pretty shocking sight. There's no doubt that the 36-year-old was what a huge section of the audience was paying to see and they proved so. As Messi was substituted, hundreds of spectators could be seen heading straight for the exits, despite the game not even reaching half-time yet.
It's a brutal reminder that a certain portion of the crowds that attend Inter Miami games are there strictly to see Messi and nothing else. His impact on football as a whole in the United States will be unparalleled in the years to come. His arrival saw Miami's social media following skyrocket, and it's a testament to his superstar status that so many fans in attendance on Wednesday decided to leave the minute he was replaced.
He wasn't the only icon that the side was forced to remove in the first half either, with Jordi Alba also going off injured. With two of the side's biggest players now out with injuries, Miami will be hoping neither man is on the sideline for too long.
Losing a star like Messi so early in the game could have been disastrous for Miami, and it wouldn't have been all that surprising if they'd have crumbled as the game wore on. Instead, though, they charged forward and rallied in his absence. The side thrashed Toronto 4-0, with goals from Facundo Farias, Benjamin Cremaschi and a brace from Robert Taylor sealing the deal.
The Florida-based club have yet to lose a game that Messi has featured in, but with the U.S. Open Cup final on the horizon, they'll be praying the star's injury isn't serious, and he'll be back in time to help give the side the best possible chance of lifting their second bit of silverware in a matter of months.